Miss A Columnist

Andrea Rodgers is the Founder of Miss A (AskMissA.com), which covers the intersection of charity and lifestyle for 1.5 million unique readers annually. Based in Washington, DC, Miss A has a presence in 21 U.S. cities with 30 editors and hundreds of writer. Andrea was inspired after 9/11, and became heavily involved in Washington’s charity circuit in an effort to give back to the community. At the core of the Miss A brand is Andrea’s personal belief in the positive power of volunteering and charity — not only to benefit those less fortunate, but to improve the individual, business or brand that gives their time, money and energy to a cause. AskMissA.com serves as a technological platform which connects editors, writers and readers around this core belief and shines a spotlight on the best nonprofits, charity events, cause marketing campaigns and philanthropic & stylish people, businesses and brands to inspire others to get involved.

Andrea Rodgers is a member of the Vogue 100, a hand-selected group by Vogue magazine of 100 influential decision makers and opinion leaders across the country known for their distinctive taste in fashion & culture. She has been featured in Vogue, W and Allure, CNN, Fox News, NOS Dutch Public Broadcasting, TV Tokyo, France 24, Alhurra, USA Today, Washington Post & Politico.

Tareq and Michaele Salahi: Sari Behavior

Michaele and Marines

White House intruder, Michaele Salahi posing with men who have vowed to protect our country.

with Joe Biden

If you haven’t seen the news in the past 24 hours, take a look at an excellent piece by The Washington Post’s Reliable Source. Since bloggers who don’t even know the couple  are writing about Michaele and Tareq Salahi crashing Tuesday night’s State Dinner at the White House, I felt I should write.  Polite Society doesn’t like to air dirty laundry and bring these things to light, but Tuesday night’s stunt compelled me to write this article. My article is my theory, my inside view. It’s all “alleged” and all that other lawyer-speak, so if I accidentally forget to write “alleged” that’s what I mean:

I first met Tareq and Michaele at The Courage Cup polo match in 2005. They were allegedly involved in organizing the event with Greg Ball (now New York State Assemblyman). Soon after the event, Greg asked me and some others to take over the event planning for The Courage Cup in 2006. I was very involved in fundraising and event planning in Washington, and had a great circle of friends who did the same. While planning the 2006 event, we came to find out that allegedly bills had never been paid for the 2005 event and vendors didn’t want to work with us. Many would have thrown in the towel, but we wanted to raise money for the amazing kids of the Work to Ride program in Philadelphia that provides after school care, tutoring, and gives the at-risk inner city kids the opportunity to learn to ride horses. Some of the kids in the program have learned to play polo and are quite accomplished athletes. So we fundraised and paid off  the debt left by Greg Ball and those allegedly organizing the event with him like Tareq and Michaele Salahi.

We incorporated and established a 501(c)(3) and did everything by the book. We had a very successful event in 2006, despite Tareq pulling his company’s wine sponsorship two weeks before our event, because he didn’t want to pay to play in the polo match. He wanted to play for free. The sense of entitlement Tareq and Michaele allegedly have is unbelievable, in my opinion. Greg Ball won his NY State Assembly seat that fall, and soon after threatened to sue to regain control of The Courage Cup. We didn’t want to give the 501(c)(3) back to him, as we felt he wasn’t responsible with money. I had to meet with Assemblyman Ball, Tareq and Michaele Salahi and their entire entourage at our pro bono attorney’s office at Akin Gump to try to settle the dispute. Thank goodness the charity had a pro bono attorney as the dispute cost Akin Gump roughly $50,000 in legal fees!

If this wasn’t enough, The Washington Post discovered WHY Greg Ball hadn’t allegedly paid the debts he owed the vendors. He had allegedly used that money from The Courage Cup to fund his NY State Assembly race. How this never became a big deal to New Yorker voters, I have no clue, but some are trying to get folks up there to wake up. The Washington Post article came out right before our 2007 event, and the back and forth drama with Greg Ball and Tareq Salahi  scared off potential corporate sponsors and prevented The Courage Cup from being as successful in 2007 as we had been in 2006. By 2008, and without being able to take control of The Courage Cup nonprofit, Tareq and Michaele created America’s Cup of Polo. My take is that their Oasis Winery was having financial problems and they needed a way to make money for themselves. Washington is always looking for the next big thing, so corporate sponsors and attendees flocked to their event, which again hurt The Courage Cup. America’s Cup was promoted as being for charity, and people were told that the Queen of England and President Bush would be at their event, which of course didn’t happen. Tareq used photos of himself with Prince Charles to give his event legitimacy.

Speaking of taking photos with celebrities to gain legitimacy. Not only did Tareq and Michaele allegedly lie to Federal officials to gain access to the State Dinner, but they were snapping photos like a tourist at Disney World while they were there. They are smooth operators. Those photos weren’t taken just to “FaceBrag”. I would bet that they were taken with the intent to mislead the general public about the nature of their upcoming USA vs. India polo match, in the same way that photos taken with Prince Charles led the public to believe the Queen of England would attend USA vs. England. In my opinion, they want ticket purchasers to think that they are really on a mission to have a “cultural exchange” with India and that they are working closely with the Indian government. They also want the general public to assume that the people in the photos are supporting their cause, their event, and may actually show up.

To me this whole party crashing is much more than that. To me, it is a alleged felony intrusion of the White House with an alleged attempt to mislead and deceive the general public for their own personal gain.  You see, they claim to hold the America’s Cup for their Journey for the Cure Foundation which chooses charity partners to benefit each year. Innocents at Risk was supposedly one of the partner charities for the 2009 America’s Cup of Polo. Since I was doing event planning and other work for Innocents at Risk, I had to “make nice” and attend the America’s Cup of Polo on behalf of Innocents at Risk. I was extremely skeptical, and warned Innocents at Risk about the Salahi’s. As far as I know, Innocents at Risk never received money from the foundation aside from Tareq and Michaele using the charity’s credit card to attend a fundraiser. As a matter of fact, Innocents at Risk was asked to pay $2500 America’s Cup to attend the event! The State of Virginia has warned the public about the Salahi’s Journey for the Cure Foundation. Allegedly, The Salahi’s were even able to dupe Loudoun County, Virginia into giving them $136,500 of hard-earned tax-payer dollars. You can check out the spin they used to convince the county. Many event vendors have not been paid including Market Salamander catering, which is owned by Sheila Johnson, Billionaire co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET) who has filed a lawsuit for over $300,000 in damages.

Bravo knew what they were doing when they selected Michaele Salahi for Real Housewives of DC. However, I think the best drama occurs off camera. I’m not sure if charity in other major cities is this scandalous, but I swear I could write a book. The Salahis have hurt a number of people in Virginia and D.C., and many of us are glad to see that they were finally outed for their poor behavior. I only hope that the federal authorities dig a little deeper, and see what is really going on here is much more than party crashing. In my mind, it’s likely charity fraud.

- Miss A

P.S. My update with additional details has been posted here.

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